The sun is out like a welcome visitor after heavy fog, cloudy days and rain. Reminiscent of living by the coast, the recurring rain and storms have been a part of almost every day that stands as a stark contrast to, not that long ago, when it never seemed to rain at all.
Rain always makes me smile, in as much as it’s nice to have some help in the garden. Although, after several days, I miss the sun’s warmth, and one can almost hear the plants saying ‘not more rain’ or ‘enough already’. More rain is predicted this week again, leaving only a few days to garden in the sunshine.
Surrounding my garden, the new season’s crops are lush and green. They show some signs of water damage because the rain has been fairly constant for months now, but overall look promising. Rain in the bush is the foundation of the community. If crops get a good start like this, the season will do well, and the farms hence the town will prosper.
Many plants are dormant in the garden and look very wintery, but the rain has made the ground soft and manageable—excellent news for me with so many weeds to remove before Spring. I recently transplanted several roses and lavender shrubs but have been away from the garden since the cold winds and heavy rain have kept me indoors. To my delight, on inspection this week, all seem to be okay in their new position in the garden. Roses are generally easy to transplant but it was my first go at moving lavender and a tall May Bush. Time will tell, but so far so good.
I am always astonished, but should know better by now, that rain rather than water makes such a difference to plant growth. Rainfall, although unreliable, is the best panacea for ailing or new plants for one reason – nitrogen. After a good soak of rain or a hearty storm, the plants appear greener, clean, and lush because there is a significant chemical difference between rainwater and tap water.
Plants crave nitrogen and may at times appear yellow, look stunted or do not grow well. -this is usually because of nitrogen deficiency. Although the earth’s atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, plants need nitrogen to grow, and most plants cannot use nitrogen gas, but they can use nitrates.
During a storm, nitrogen from the atmosphere is transformed into a usable form for plants by a process called nitrogen fixation, by lightning. Lightning carries an electrical charge that is powerful enough to break the strong bonds of the nitrogen molecule in the atmosphere. Once split, the nitrogen and oxygen form nitrogen dioxide that dissolves in water ( rain) creating nitric acid that form nitrates. In the rain the nitrates fall to the ground and seep into the soil so are able to be absorbed by plant life. Rainfall especially lightning visibly help plants in the garden, but the soil microorganisms are the main source of nitrogen through good soil, added fertiliser and organic matter..
In a nutshell rainfall and especially thunderstorms do help plants unlock nitrogen from the earth’s atmosphere which is the reason our plants look so great after a week of rain. And rain is also high in oxygen that helps the garden cope with saturated soil. In comparison to a massive amount of tap water soaking the ground that has much less oxygen, it may cause root rot, anaerobic soil conditions from poor drainage.
The best water for the garden is; rainfall from a storm, clean rainwater such as rain harvested in water tanks, river water, town water or bore water ( if not too salty.)
Now in the garden, four days later, rain continues to fall. The winter has been mild, with few days of early morning frost and plenty of water: good news and a real boon for the region. Dams are full or overflowing, creeks running and the water table within the soil is now high again. The only concern is if it keeps raining, the heavy clay soil is so saturated that it becomes difficult for water to drain away. I love the rain myself, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it being a bit warmer and not losing so many plants for a change from frost.
Title quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Content Di Baker 2021
Images by Unsplash or as cited.